Talk about stepping up. This guy went from being a comedian starring in a local political satire TV series to the hero the world has been waiting for.
Literally, overnight, he transformed into the chosen one, performing miracle upon miracle daily. Like Loaves and Fishes, he’s taken Ukraine’s average-sized armed forces and injected its strength tenfold through his all-consuming desire to fight with and for his people.
His ability to reach into the hearts and minds of everyone around him has exponentially travelled around the globe, gaining him support and strength along the way. He has done the impossible, manifest hope and goodness in a world divided by fear. So, what is he doing exactly that seems so other-worldly and impossibly intangible? He’s using a skill that he was born with and probably used his whole life but didn’t realise its awesome power till just now.
He is using a leadership skill that is rarely talked about and certainly never portrayed as powerful or even useful. But if there is anything we’ve learned in the last couple decades, it’s that authoritarianism is based on fear, and though it spreads incredibly fast, at its core, it is weak and fragile. It’s bark and bite can be fierce and damaging, but what lies beneath is nothing but emptiness and gloom.
President Zelensky, however, demonstrates a heroism that has existed since the beginning of time but often gets lost in translation and buried beneath the rubble of despair, and only gains strength when a special soul comes along and ignites the embers that silently burn below the surface. It’s called empathy. And when practiced by someone who reveres and honours its phenomenal presence, it lights a fire so powerful and strong that it cannot be extinguished.
The war-torn country of Ukraine has shocked the world with its courageous resolve. Their leader has tapped into his gift for putting himself in another person’s shoes, and allowed himself to become one with their pain and suffering. An incredibly selfless thing to do, especially when leadership is often portrayed as something you put upon others rather than something you choose to experience with another.
For a good leader, it’s about finding the humility to put oneself on an equal playing field and allowing the mutual respect to flow back and forth without a hierarchy or sense of entitlement. It’s about giving up control and opening up to the shared human experience that is innate in us all, and if entered with unassuming grace, will create a chain reaction so strong and unwavering that its created bond can never be broken.
So, will Ukraine’s example be a turning point in a world which values false power and greed over anything else? Perhaps. But if nothing else, President Zelensky has gotten the attention he deserves, as someone who has broken the mold and showed us that the status quo is no longer safe or good enough to face the challenges of today.
And maybe, he even changes the leadership paradigm to one that sets the world on a new course. A course toward communion and healing. A course that sees might as something that is attained through vulnerability and mutual respect. Isn’t that what great leaders, sages, and icons do? They jump in when called and rise to the occasion to do the work they were born to do. And in this case, bringing empathy as a leadership quality to the global stage may just be what the world needs to change direction and find new footing.